ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

September 1998

Articles

Standing Your Ground In The Face Of Change

Turning Local Government Into A Business

Stop Trying To Be "Friendly" And "Courteous"

It's A Small World Afterall
Lucent's Performance



Columns

My Way Is The Highway
by Peter Block

What's So Super About Collaboration?
by Michael Finley


Features

Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Pageturners
Book Review

 
Views For A Change

Dave Farrell Responds:

A brief answer to Amy’s simple yet frequently vexing question is: “Make sure that they truly are interdependent.” Unless they are, efforts to help them see themselves that way are doomed to failure. When members of an executive team are in fact interdependent, much can then be done to build on that relationship so that, not only do they feel interdependent, they behave collaboratively, day-in and day-out.

Organizational Processes and Structural Design
In recent years we have become increasingly aware of the limitations of the traditional hierarchical organizational structure, one that emphasizes individual and functional roles over truly interdependent relationships and responsibilities. Alternative approaches for organizing to conduct business include networked organizations and process-driven structures. That is not to say that the primary objective in organizational design should be its impact on executive teamwork. The design should flow from the business context within which it functions—the nature of its products and services, its technology, customers, required communications and speed of change, etc.
All too often, however, organizations remain committed to outmoded and dysfunctional structures for the very reasons you mention in your question—to “protect and defend” the status quo. A fresh and candid look at the effectiveness of the current structures is called for.
Where rapid response times, extraordinary levels of communication and high degrees of delegation would optimize your organization’s competitive position, a network-style should be considered. In this model, the role of the executive shifts toward responsibility for critical nodes in the network, managing the “white space” between functions. Critical skills include communication and enabling others.

Where focus on the customer, continuous improvement or the integration of diverse functions into holistic systems is needed, a process-driven structure may be optimum. In this model, executives become “champions” or “owners” of entire processes, rather than bosses of functions. Their scope is broadened and they develop visibility for a major process within the organization from beginning to end. A key required skill is the ability to integrate diverse functions into effective systems—just the behavior your question seeks to produce.

In order to accomplish the objectives implicit in your question, the very process of re-examining the organization must be done collectively, involving the very people whose behavior you are seeking to change. In this way, their “team building” occurs in the context of a very real, very critical task, in which both the decisions reached and implementation must be collaborative.

Happily, the last decade has seen the evolution of a number of highly effective approaches to large-group collaborative decision making, organizational design and strategic planning processes. Today, we know how to bring 50, 100 or even 200 people together to produce very innovative solutions in a way that also maximizes personal involvement and commitment. It is possible then, to bring all the senior people together for this work, even in large organizations.

Personal Behavior and Development
As Covey reminds us, “Leaders can transform their organizations and their people by communicating vision, clarifying purposes, making behavior congruent with belief and aligning procedures with principles, roles and goals.” So it is also with behavior at the very top of the organization. If the executive team is to behave collaboratively, the modeling of that behavior must begin with the CEO.

There are those executives who simply don’t possess the skills to behave in the collaborative ways the new structures will require. They don’t know, for example, how to use empathy to get another’s point of view, how to use synergy to create a third alternative or how to create a win-win agreement. By gaining or developing additional skills, executives can open up a broader range of choices in their behavior. For these people, an investment in further personal development is a must. And since executive egos are a frequent barrier to continued education and learning, willingness to lead through example is essential.

An approach to develop the desired behaviors would be to assign “real work” projects that absolutely require collaboration between specific members of the executive team, hold each of them equally responsible for outcomes, then monitor both results and behavior.
Destructive competition and turf wars often originate from a “win-lose” mindset. You should create what Covey calls an “abundance mentality.” And make sure that recognition and reward systems are designed and implemented to reinforce win-win behavior.
Recall back a decade or so when Magic Johnson was a consistent winner of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award? The statistic that most often warranted his accolades was not scoring the most points, but making the most assists. Do our business organizations even recognize assists? It is the rare organization that effectively backs up its professed belief in the value of teamwork with measurement, reward and recognition systems that truly reinforce it.

Those of us who desire to contribute to the field of managing and leading change must be willing to raise the level at which we practice our craft. All too often we take the “easy” route of working at the operational level of organizations, all the time knowing that lasting change must be managed and led from the boardroom and executive suite. That’s where the most challenging, and hence, rewarding work needs to be done.

Myron Kellner Rogers Responds

September '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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